Three simple dishes with no more than three ingredients = the best kind of waste-free cooking.

By Maki Yazawa
May 15, 2020
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No need to cry over spoiled milk yet again. Instead throwing away another expired, partially-used gallon of milk that’s been sitting in your fridge for weeks, try making one of these easy milk-based ingredients from scratch. Our easy-to-follow hacks for making common grocery staples—buttermilk, condensed milk, and sour cream—with items you already have at home will help you save money, waste less food, and give you one less ingredient to pick up at the grocery store.

DIY Buttermilk

Never run out of buttermilk again by easily making it at home with only two ingredients. For every cup of buttermilk your recipe calls for, combine 1 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar or lemon juice with 1 cup of room temperature milk. Let it sit for about five to 10 minutes as it curdles and thickens. Once that's complete, your buttermilk is good to go and can hold in the refrigerator for up to a week.

If you’re looking to make cultured buttermilk instead, you will want to heat 4 cups of milk until it is almost boiling, cool and combine with ½ cup of yogurt (make sure it says “live and active cultures” on the label). Cover with a clean towel and store in a warm, dark area in your kitchen for eight to 12 hours until it has fully thickened. Keep in the refrigerator for up to two weeks and use it to make fresh scones, pancakes, or the best-ever fried chicken batter. Find the full recipe for buttermilk here.

DIY Condensed Milk

Sweeten things up and make condensed milk with 2 cups of whole milk and ⅔ cup of granulated white sugar (this will yield about 1 cup of condensed milk). Combine the milk and sugar in a small saucepan and warm on very low heat until the sugar has fully dissolved, stirring occasionally with a spatula. Once the sugar and milk are combined, bring the mix to a low, gentle simmer for 30 to 40 minutes and leave untouched. After the time is complete, the mixture will darken into a light yellow color, begin to thicken, and reduce by half. If you notice foam accumulating at the edges of your pan, use a spoon to carefully skim off the layer, cleaning off your spoon in between each removal. Remove from the heat and transfer into a jar to cool. Store in the refrigerator for up to six months. Use your condensed milk to drizzle over fresh strawberries or to sweeten homemade ice cream.

DIY Sour Cream

Before you run to the store, consider making homemade sour cream using these three simple ingredients you likely already have at home: milk, heavy cream, and lemon juice (or white vinegar). Similar to making buttermilk, all you need is a jar, ¼ cup of room temperature milk, 2 teaspoons of lemon juice, and 1 cup of heavy cream. Pour the milk and lemon juice into the jar and mix, then add the heavy cream. Close with a lid and give the jar a good shake to combine all of the ingredients. Remove the lid and cover with a breathable cloth, like a cheesecloth or paper towel, and leave on the counter overnight or up to 24 hours. Your DIY sour cream will be good for two weeks in the fridge and is perfect for adding a dollop to your beef tacos or burrito bowl. Find the full recipe for sour cream here.